Nokia N96 vs. Apple iPhone 3G

Nokia and Apple. The champion and the pretender to the throne. Apple might have thrown down the gauntlet to the Finnish market leaders, but will the flagship N96 phone make people forget about the iPhone 3G?

In fairness, the two phones only compare in two ways: the wealth of applications available and the fact they're the flagship devices of two major brands.

But they're still very similar in specs, and both are great phones too... so let the battle begin!


Both handsets boast a decent build quality: the N96 is big and wide, but with a nice feel in the hand and a solid chassis too.

The iPhone 3G is wider and thinner than the Finnish offering and despite dispensing with the aluminium back is still very nice to hold.

Verdict: The iPhone wins it by a nose... it's just so shiny!


Here's where the mobile phone buying public is divided: those that hate the iPhone say the simple 'here's everything' nature of the front screen takes away some of the tidiness of the mobile phone.

But then again, you can say the N96's S60 OS is fiddly and contains menu upon menu, and if you don't speak Nokia, you can find yourself hunting for quite some time to change a simple date setting.

Verdict: Simplicity wins out – the iPhone's applications are just so accessible.


Well, here's a no brainer. While the iPhone's complete disregard for the 'more megapixels' war does have some nobility to it, a 2MP snapper with no flash or video capability is DESTROYED by a class leading 5MP, Carl Zeiss, twin LED camera nailed on the back of the N96.

Verdict: This one's not even close: Nokia N96 wins hands down.


Ooh, this is a tricky one. The iPhone does have all the media power of its iPod cousin, and as such is a powerhouse in the media stakes. It packs all the punch of the BBC iPlayer, and also allows quick and easy downloads of iTunes movies and TV shows.

But don't try and change tracks in your pocket... it just isn't happening.

The Nokia N96 bats the iPlayer right back at the iPhone, as it too comes with it right out of the box. The smaller screen lets it down, however, though the mobisodes option is actually quite a nice touch.

However, the saving grace are the dedicated music keys on the front d-pad, and the fact you can slide the handset down to activate media mode, is a beautiful and unique option.

Verdict: Draw. Neither phone would leave you feeling media deprived, but it just comes down to whether you need the keys or not.


Well, you'd have to be a fool to disregard the iPhone's ability to surf the web. Mobile Safari is a joy to use, with the pinch and zoom function a genius way to manipulate web pages. No Flash compatibility does spoil things a little though.

On the Nokia N96, while packing a great web browser, it fails by simply not having a touchscreen, which, without a mouse is absolutely crucial now for mobile surfing.

Don't get us wrong, it's a great browser... it just isn't mobile Safari.

Verdict: The iPhone wins again. But then again, internet was always one of its strong points.

Battery life and coverage

It would be unfair compare the two on 3G coverage as the Nokia N96 has barely been out and about yet. But the Finns have had a long time to get it right and have done so on a number of occasions, whereas Apple's 3G connectivity has been poorly received, requiring numerous fixes.

Both are pretty evenly matched in the battery stakes, with both needing a recharge after a day's moderate-to-heavy use, which you would want to do given the rich feature list on each.

Verdict: The Nokia N96 on sheer connectivity tradition.

Maps and GPS

The Nokia N96 we tested didn't fare very well on this front, but then again that might just be a one off because the GPS chip didn't seem to work at all.

Nokia's Maps application is nice enough... but you just feel it's missing something... what could it be?

Ah yes... Google Maps. The combo of Apple's GPS chip, a touchscreen and Google Maps make this a joy to use, even though the GPS doesn't always seem to be as accurate as it could be.

Verdict: The iPhone. That touchscreen is MADE for map interaction.

TechRadar says: While a very honourable mention should go to the N96, it just can't defeat the iPhone for sheer ease of use.

Both have a wealth of features under the bonnet, and both are a delight to use at times. If your Aunt Janice ended up getting you either of these for Christmas, you would not be crying into your turkey sandwiches.

And if you're against touchscreens, you should seriously think about the N96 as your default option.

But the iPhone 3G, camera aside, ticks all the necessary boxes and then some. There's a reason the handset keeps selling out everywhere... it's just really, really good, doing the things you need it to when they need to be done.

Now Apple, just fix the 3G problems eh? There's a good global brand...

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.